How to Create a Montessori Inspired Peace Corner
by Polly Bond
As any educator knows, young children will need discipline, however a lot of the time what their overloaded minds need more is timeout. Here is a suggestion on how to calm young learners, taken from the Montessori school of thought. It is not in the form of swift and forceful discipline, it works in a similar way to tried and tested methods in the home such as ‘the naughty wall’ or the ‘naughty step’ made famous by the formidable Super Nanny, where the child is taken away from the area or activity in which the conflict stemmed and also all stimulus. The key difference between the peace corner and the “naughty wall” is that stimulus is NOT taken but provided. The naughty wall or step is designed as a punishment. (“The naughty wall/step” is a process in which a child is sent for a time out either against a wall or on a step, the child is left on the wall with nothing to play with and ignored by all.)
In the event of a child displaying over emotional, frustrated behaviour the inclusion of a “Peace Corner” is an asset to any classroom. The child can be sent here for no set amount of time in order to relax. This is not to say that extremely hostile behaviour should be rewarded with beautiful artifacts and a nice long nap, the exact application and terms and conditions are always in the hands of the facilitator. The “Peace Corner” is not an area of punishment, nor is it quarantine for “naughty children”. (Remember that difficult behaviour in young learners almost always stems from difficult or changing circumstances. Labeling a child naughty will create negative preconceptions of self.) Calling a frustrated child naughty can lead to stigma and further frustration, so be careful how you dish the discipline. Stripping a child of stimulus can be equally as frustrating to a tense young mind. The “Peace Corner” is place of calmness and tranquility, a place to rest and reflect.
If a very young child is tired and needs a nap the peace corner is also the perfect place to do this. Never send a child to the corner in angry fashion as this will lead to negative connotations in a peaceful place.
The purpose of the “Peace Corner” is to teach the concept of peace, not to punish. So what to put in the “Peace Corner”? In the Montessori schooling there is a principle that beautiful objects will encourage respectful play, so choose your items wisely. Everything in here MUST be calming and relaxing and represent peace in some way. How the facilitator sees the concept of peace will affect the make-up of the corner, (and no it doesn't have to be a corner, but the added support of surrounding walls are a great place for the child to lean, at this age the body is growing and aching constantly. Comfort is tantamount to calm.) Some may want to base the corner on an Ashram or shrine to peace, others like a home environment.
What to add:
Cushions, blankets and mattresses. Cotton, silk and natural fibres. Avoid loud colours; use tones found in nature, possibly even well kept healthy snacks.
Plants: Japanese Peace Lily.
Stress Balls are a perfect calming stimulus for young inquisitive minds.
Pictures of peaceful images, landscapes or peaceful figures throughout history. This is a great addition for older learners who can use these images for future social studies projects.
For example: Mahatma Gandhi, Socrates, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Confucius, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie and others.
SET 2: Beautiful artwork. Make or buy flashcards of beautiful, calming pieces of art. This is a wonderful activity a child can do in silence alone. Beware of over-stimulation. Have these works of art as nomenclature cards, make sure they are readily available to the peace corner but easily storable and tidied. These pieces of art have been carefully selected due to their content: Claude Monet’s entire collection; Hieronymous Bosch: ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ (this is a more hectic painting, however the detail will be something for the children to study to open doors to their imagination); Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel; Peter-Paul Rubens’ ‘Feast of Venus’; and works by other artists such as Mark Tansey, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Auguste Renoir and the like.